CHINA AND ITS PEOPLE.
ODD SUPERSTITIONS AND NOTIONS OF THE CELESTIALS.
Shanghai, the Paris of Asia—Boat Life on the Great River Yang-tse-Kiang— Peculiar Belief Concerning the Making of Medicine in America.
Shanghai is about midway on the Pacific coast between the northern and southern boundaries of China. It is near the mouth of, though not on, the great river, the Yang-tse-Kiang, which divides the empire into two equal portions, and which forms the great central avenue of trade. This is one of the greatest and one of the longest rivers of the world, and it vies with the Nile in the rich deposits which it carries down from the mountains of Thibet [sic] and spreads over the rich plains of China. Its waters where it enters the sea are as yellow as clay, and their contents are, I am told, as rich as guano. They form a fertilizer which the Chinese use by irrigation, so that it is spread over much of the 548,000 square miles which forms its basin and makes this land produce from two to three crops per year.
LIFE ON THE YANG-TSE-KIANG.
The Yang-tse Kiang has a fall nearly double that of the Nile or the Amazon. It is so wide at its mouth that when we sailed up it in coming to Shanghai we for a long way were hardly able to see the banks, and this width extends up the river for hundreds of miles. It is navigable for ocean steamers to Hankow [Wuhan], a city of the size of Chicago, which is situated on its banks 600 miles above Shanghai, and river steamers can go 1,300 miles up its winding course. Above this there are gorges and rapids which the foreigners now think can be passed, and there will then be an opening into the interior of China by this means for more than 2,000 miles.
The Yang-tse-Kiang is so long that it would reach from San Francisco to New York and push its way out into the Atlantic if it could be stretched out upon a plane of the face of the United States. It is longer than the distance from New York to Liverpool, and it is said to be the best stream in the world as to the arrangement of its branches.
Its boat population is numbered by hundreds of thousands, and it is a city hundreds of miles in length, made up of junks, ships and barges. These Chinese junks are gorgeously painted and carved. They have the same style of sails and masts that were used thousands of years ago, and their sails are immense sheets of cotton patched together and stretched on rods of bamboo which look like fishing poles. The sailors are pig-tailed men in fat clothes of cotton who sing in a cracked gibberish as they work, and who understand how to manage their rude sails so well that they can often pass ships of more modern make. All of the Chinese boats have a pair of eyes painted on the sides of their prows, and the Chinese sailor would no more think of navigating without these than he would think of eating without chopsticks.
If asked the reason he replies: "No have eyes, no can see. No can see, no can go."
Bishop Fowler, while sailing up the Pie Ho to Peking, happened to sit with his legs hanging over the boat so that they covered up one eye. He noticed that the sailors were uneasy, and they at last came to him and asked him to move his legs, as the ship could not see to go.
The Chinese are full of superstitions and many of them firmly believe that the foreigners make medicines out of human beings. The massacre at Tien-Tsin in 1870, in which twenty foreigners were killed and among them a number of French nuns, was caused by the report that the sisters were killing children to get their hearts and eyes for medical purposes, and the trouble in Corea last spring was caused by the circulation of the stories that the missionaries were grinding up children's bones to make medicine.
This report was started by the Chinese, and the latest attempt of the kind I find today here at Shanghai. It appears in a tri-monthly illustrated magazine which the Chinese publish and which sells for five cents a copy. This contains a full description of how the foreigners make their medicine, with ghastly illustrations of the severed trunks and the cut up limbs of human beings. In one cut, men in American clothes are bending over great furnaces in which the heads and legs of men are boiling, and beside which great baskets and tubs of cut up humans lie. The men are stirring the steaming mass, and the picture makes one think of the witches' cauldron in "Macbeth."
The Chinese themselves do not believe in dissection and there is no body snatching here. They believe that the heart is the seat of thought, that the soul exists in the liver and that the gall bladder is the seal of courage. For this reason the gall bladders of tigers are eaten by soldiers to inspire them with courage.
The Chinese doctor ranks no higher than the ordinary skilled workman. He gets from fifteen to twenty cents a visit, and he often takes patients on condition that he will cure them within a certain time or no pay. He never sees his female patients except behind a screen, and he does not pay a second visit unless he is invited. His pay is called "golden thanks," and the orthodox way of sending it to him is wrapped in red paper.
The dentists look upon pulled teeth as trophies, and they go about with necklaces of decayed teeth about their necks, or with them strung upon strings and tied to sticks. Toothache is supposed to come from a worm in the tooth, and there are a set of female doctors who make a business of extracting these worms. When the nerve is exposed they take this out and call it the worm, and when not they use a sleight-of-hand by which they make their patients believe certain worms, which they show then, come from their teeth. I have heard persons tell of Chinamen who claimed to have had ten worms taken from their mouths in a single day, and I saw a woman actually at work upon a patient in the street here.
China is as full of superstition as the West India Islands, and the people like to be humbugged quite as well here as we do in America.—Frank G. Carpenter.
Death of a Prominent Ithacan.
ITHACA, N. Y., May 30.—Ward Gregory, postmaster of this city, died here to- day after many months' illness, resulting from Bright’s disease, complicated by heart difficulty. Deceased was 45 years old, and for 16 years has been editor and proprietor of the Ithaca Democrat. For many years he was chairman of the Democratic county committee. He was three years in the State insurance department at Albany. Deceased enjoyed the personal friendship of Mr. Cleveland during the latter’s gubernatorial term, and was made postmaster for conspicuously vigorous efforts in 1884. Widow and two daughters survive him.
CC editor’s note: Benton B. Jones, editor and proprietor of the Cortland Democrat, also had Bright’s disease. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bright's_disease